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P.E.I. tourism industry eager to entice more Chinese visitors to the province

Monte Gisborne, front left and his wife, Luo Dan Ni (Daniela), pose with a group of Chinese tourists who took a ride last year aboard the couple’s Chinese junk boat that sails from Peakes Quay Marina in Charlottetown. China is a growing tourism market for Canada.
Monte Gisborne, front left and his wife, Luo Dan Ni (Daniela), pose with a group of Chinese tourists who took a ride last year aboard the couple’s Chinese junk boat that sails from Peakes Quay Marina in Charlottetown. China is a growing tourism market for Canada. - Contributed

There’s nothing like a fresh, warm glass of water for a weary traveller arriving for a visit to Prince Edward Island.

Yes, warm water, at least if that visitor is Chinese.

The Chinese people normally shun cold drinking water, so hotels should make a point to have kettles available in their room to better serve this growing tourist market to P.E.I. and Canada, says Grace Xin, the national director of the Canada-China Tourism Advance Program with the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.

Tap water is not sufficient because that is not drinkable in China, so the Chinese visitors are not comfortable pouring a glass from that source on P.E.I. either.

There is plenty that Island tourism operators should know about the Chinese to have a better shot at drawing their business and improving the opportunity of repeat business and positive word-of-mouth advertisement from Canada’s largest source of tourist arrivals from the Asia-Pacific region and second largest overseas market.

“They have different needs and expectations,’’ says Xin, who will be putting on a “China Readiness Workshop’’ in Charlottetown at the end of the month.

Chinese tourists, for instance, commonly pay through apps like WeChat rather than by credit card or cash.

Being well prepared to welcome Chinese visitors is key to growing this tourism market, says Kevin Mouflier, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I.

The workshop, which is expected to attract up to 50 people from the tourism industry, is one good measure.

“I think it’s of vital importance,’’ he says.

“It’s an emerging market.’’

Emerging, indeed.

There were 682,000 visitors to Canada from China in 2017, up 12 per cent over 2016, according to Destination Canada.

Travelling mostly during the peak travel months of July and August, Chinese tourists spend on average almost $2,400 per trip to Canada, staying around 31 nights. About 41 per cent of these trips are for the purpose of visiting friends and family and 25 per cent are for pleasure and recreation.

Quick facts

  • China is Canada’s second largest overseas tourism market.
  • In 2017, 682,000 Chinese tourists visited Canada, generating $1.6 billion in receipts.
  • Arrivals to Canada are forecast to grow 12.5 per cent due to China’s increasing outbound travel and thriving economy.

Source: Tourism Industry Association of Canada

Chinese tourists, adds Destination Canada, are more likely to travel with children to Canada than the average international visitor, representing 15 per cent of Chinese arrivals.

The province’s tourism department says the Chinese market is of growing importance to the Island's tourism industry and applauds TIAPEI’s efforts to better prepare operators for visitors from China.

The province recorded 3,484 overnight stays from the Chinese market in 2018, but that does not capture those travelling by motor coach or individuals who stayed with family or friends.

On average, a Chinese party travelling to P.E.I. numbers three and stays roughly six nights.

“The Chinese want to be kept busy. They do not want to spend a day lying on the beach. They want to be go, go, go, go.’’
-Andre Hendricken

Xin believes Prince Edward Island has merely scratched the surface when it comes to meeting its potential as a destination for Chinese tourists.

Her workshop will focus on building products that will attract this potentially lucrative market.

She says the Chinese immigrants and students living in P.E.I. are currently an untapped resource.

“How can you use them as your free ambassadors? There are a lot of ways to do it,’’ she says.

“I think P.E.I. has a great potential…so it’s worth persistent effort in developing the market.’’

She says a province with such a small population and limited tourism marketing budget needs to “learn some tricks’’ to chase after the large Chinese tourism market.

Tapping in

The Tourism Industry Association of Canada is hosting a series of introductory China Readiness Workshops for Canadian small and medium sized tourism businesses who are eager to tap into the growing Chinese tourist market.

A workshop is being held in Charlottetown on Wednesday, March 27, 8:30-11:30 a.m., at The Holman Grand Hotel.

Click here to register for the workshop

Andre Hendricken of Prince Edward Tours says the tour company is certainly getting a healthy slice of this market.

He said the monks have been big business for Prince Edward Tours.

The Great Enlightenment Buddhist Society (GEBIS) has hundreds of monks living on P.E.I., and each year more than 1,500 lay Buddhist practitioners come to GEBIS from around the world to participate in learning retreats and meditation workshops.

Hendricken says the monks organize private tours for family and friends through Prince Edward Tours.

There could be between 200 and 400 people arriving at the same time from China to visit the monks and to see P.E.I.

He estimates Prince Edward Tours had about 1,000 Chinese visitors hop aboard a bus in 2018 thanks to the monks.

“People don’t realize what the monks bring to this province,’’ he says.

“They are about peace and love, but they bring big business to the Maritimes.’’

Hendricken adds visitors from China look for activity-packed tours.

“The Chinese want to be kept busy,’’ he says.

“They do not want to spend a day lying on the beach. They want to be go, go, go, go.’’

Monte Gisborne has a business that seems custom-built for the Chinese tourist.

He is heading into his third season in May with an authentic red Chinese junk boat called Hi Long that sets sail from Peakes Quay Marina.

Roughly half his customers on the tours, which include Chinese cuisine and traditional music, are Asian with the majority of those coming from China.

Gisbourne’s wife Luo Dan Ni (Daniela), who is Chinese, helps Gisborne to be aware of the special needs and interests of the Chinese tourist.

John Dunphy, co-owner of Target Tours Atlantic, has also been busy paving the way to tap into the Chinese market.

Last year, he attended a trade mission to China and participated in a China readiness workshop in P.E.I.

One of the keys, he adds, is a concerted effort in selling Atlantic Canada to this growing market.

“It really needs to be a regional effort,’’ he says.

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